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Rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers

Graphic: People in immigration detention centre in Malaysia


APF people profile: Nayela Akter, Project Officer

31 May 2023  

Regional dialogue on displacement and climate change

23 Oct 2020  

NHRC launches awareness campaign for migrant workers

15 May 2020 Qatar

Commission calls for answers on deaths of 16 migrant workers

08 May 2020 India
More articles

Migration affects every region of the world, and many countries are now simultaneously countries of origin, destination and transit.

In our own region, people flee war and persecution in their home countries to seek protection elsewhere. Many make perilous journeys or pay people smugglers to cross borders, only to be detained by authorities while their claims for asylum are assessed.

Studies, including those by our members, highlight the profound impact that long-term detention has on the mental health of asylum seekers, especially children.

Migrant workers – those who migrate for employment – and their families account for about 90 per cent of all international migrants.

While migration is a positive and empowering experience for some, many migrants endure violations and discrimination at the hands of state officials, employers and others.

Migrants often work in jobs that are dirty, dangerous and degrading. They can be vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including being forced to work during their holidays, being payed salaries irregularly or not paid at all, and having their passports or documentation withheld.

They can also experience limited access to fundamental economic and social services, such as education and health services.

While countries have a sovereign right to determine conditions of entry and stay in their territories, they also have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all individuals within their jurisdiction, regardless of nationality, origin or immigration status.

Graphic: Drawing of child in immigration detention

Given their experiences in overcoming adversity, refugees are typically resilient and hard-working ... They are often driven by a strong desire to give back to the country that offered them safety and freedom.

Australian Human Rights Commission Logo Professor Gillian Triggs, Fmr President, Australian Human Rights Commission

Responding to the human rights challenges of mass migration in the region is a priority for the APF and our members.

Many of our members regularly inspect immigration detention facilities, investigate complaints by detainees and make recommendations to the government for reform of laws, policies and practices.

Some, such as the Australian Human Rights Commission, have undertaken landmark national inquiries on children held in immigration detention.

Give the regional nature of migration, our members also work cooperatively to monitor the situations in the respective countries and share information on issues related to refugees and asylum seekers.

Similarly, APF members have established cooperative arrangements with each other to monitor and respond to the human rights issues facing migrant workers in "sending" and "receiving" countries.

Regular training programs bring together representatives from APF members and NGOs in the Asia Pacific to discuss emerging issues, develop practical strategies and forge relationships to promote the rights of migrant workers at the national, regional and international level.

Dr. Ali Bin Samikh Al-Marri describes the steps being taken to promote and protect the rights of migrant workers in Qatar, as well as the challenges they face.

Graphic: Migrant workers on a building site in Qatar

Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Migrant Workers: A Manual for NHRIs

This manual examines the different ways that NHRIs can use their unique mandate to promote and protect the human rights of migrant workers.


Integrating Internal Displacement into the Work of NHRIs: India

30 Sep 2016 India

Integrating Internal Displacement into the Work of NHRIs: Indonesia

30 Sep 2016 Indonesia

Integrating Internal Displacement into the Work of NHRIs: Nepal

30 Sep 2016 Nepal

Integrating Internal Displacement into the Work of NHRIs: Philippines

30 Sep 2016 Philippines
More resources

Image credits

  1. People in immigration detention centre in Malaysia - Human Rights Commission of Malaysia
  2. Drawing of child in immigration detention - Australian Human Rights Commission